Friday, August 16, 2013

The Quantum Crowd

from a chapter called "Defining the Public in Piccadilly Circus" for a forthcoming collection on public screens and transnational cultures edited by Nikos Papastergiadis and Scott McQuire.

The public that threatened in the early 20th century to become mass became instead the lonely crowd, and the lonely crowd in turn has become a circuit of managed desires no longer adding up to individuals. When Laclau (2005) describes the unit of populist politics as demands, he approaches an understanding of this new condition, where the units are neither social nor individual but desires in movement, unanchored from biography and mobilised in currents through the tides of quotidian human affairs. The process by which communities and extended families were reduced to the nuclear family of the classic consumer society of Keynesianism continued in the Bretton Woods era to produce as unit of consumption the atomised individual. Neo-liberalism, coinciding with personal computing, internet and mobile media, encouraged the break-up of the individual, just as the previous regime encouraged the break-up of the nuclear family in an epidemic of divorce. Now only unanchored desires function as sub-individual social particles. We have moved from the molecular family to the atomic individual and thence to the quantum dynamic of desire, at which point the art of managing desires takes over from politics as the conduct of public life.

1 comment:

Stefan said...

Thoughtful, intriguing and beautiful language. Always a delight to read and re-read.